Veterinary school admissions are biased against certain groups, study finds

Veterinary school admission offers tend to be biased against certain groups, particularly underrepresented and disadvantaged groups, a new study found.

The study from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges indicates that unintended bias still exists, even though recent efforts have sought to make the admissions process more inclusive.

Researchers found admission offers were lower for candidates from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, recipients of Pell Grants (awarded for those with significant financial need), first-generation college students, candidates from rural communities and those aspiring to practice in rural communities. Offers tended to be higher for candidates who were white, male, grew up in suburban communities, were not Pell Grant recipients and whose parents attended college.

The findings “signal a very real need to reexamine admission processes,” the study’s authors wrote. “Schools and colleges of veterinary medicine should objectively and rigorously review their admissions processes and reevaluate those elements, such as the number of veterinary, animal or total experience hours, that may be a source of inherent bias against particular groups of applicants.”

For example, candidates overwhelmingly reported that their veterinary experience contributed to their understanding of the veterinary medical profession. But candidates who identified as underrepresented or female, along with those who were Pell Grant recipients, reported greater difficulty in obtaining veterinary experience.

“Admittedly, the barriers/deterrents are not absolute—many disadvantaged candidates are ultimately successful gaining an offer of admission,” the authors wrote, “but the playing field is certainly not level for all candidates; candidates from disadvantaged groups must overcome disproportionate degrees of difficulty to achieve their goals.”